Partners in Vermilion Valley Vineyards
Jack and Fran Baumann are Partners in and Co-Founders of Vermilion Valley Vineyards. They are retired educators in northeast Ohio’s school systems. While Fran and Jack served on the City Council for the City of Oberlin, they befriended another Council member, David Benzing, who approached Jack in late 2006 about converting some of his land in Henrietta Township to a vineyard. Jack’s great-grandfather Nicklaus Baumann, a Swiss native, purchased the land in 1869. Both wine enthusiasts, Fran and Jack often visit vineyards in Tuscany and other parts of Italy, and they embraced the idea of a vineyard. Jack decided to set aside 23 acres of his land and thus Vermilion Valley Vineyards was born.
Fran earned a B.A. in elementary education from Youngstown State University, and Jack earned his B.A. in social studies education from Ohio State University.
Photo by Margaret Swendseid
David Benzing, Ph.D., is a Partner in
and Co-Founder of Vermilion Valley Vineyards. He is also one of its two Winegrowers. While David’s passion for winemaking began in pre-college days, his adult interests have focused on the production of premium wines in northern Ohio and on promoting sustainable building and land-use practices.
A retired professor of biology and environmental science at Oberlin College, David is the author of numerous books and reports on the adaptive biology and evolution of epiphytic plants, numbering 25,000, which include such tropical species as bromeliads, ferns and orchids. David creates and presents many of the scientific and environmental programs and tours offered by the Vineyard. He earned his Ph.D. in botany and his M.S. in biology from the University of Michigan. He received his B.A. in zoology and chemistry from Miami University.
Photo by Linda Grashoff
Partner and Winegrower
A love of plants drew Joe to the Ohio Wine Industry at the age of 13. Given the opportunity to tend vines at a moderately sized operation in Sandusky gave Joe a solid foundation in the world of wine. Having the privilege to tend vines and do cellar work at several different establishments across North Central Ohio, Joe has been able to see the Ohio Wine Industry from every business path possible.
At 17 (2009) Joe set out to learn the ways of estate grown vinifera where the path led to Vermilion Valley Vineyards. A brand new start up business at the time, Joe was welcomed into the company to further his education while helping establish a 10-acre vineyard and successful winemaking program.
In 2013, owners, David Benzing and Jack Baumann encouraged Joe to join the partnership. Joe accepted the invitation promptly at the age of 22, making him the youngest person in Ohio history to hold a stake in a winery. Joe and wife Kristi, are now the primary operators and ultimate successors of VVV. Joe’s continuing focus is to produce world-class, sustainably farmed wines that will help further the reputation of Ohio wines.
When there is a break in the rigors of farm/winery life Joe is also an active Free Mason, Rotarian, and an avid fisherman in the Vermilion River. Joe and wife Kristi are also very involved in non-profit and community service work to benefit their local peers.